LIST: These are the Texans detained, missing abroad

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is shown during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. Griner remains in Russia two months after she was detained arriving at a Moscow airport in mid-February. Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File) (Rick Scuteri, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Here’s a look at some recent cases of foreign governments detaining Texans.

Currently missing or detained Texans

  • The “Citgo 6″: The men known as the Citgo 6 — for the Houston oil company where they worked — were lured to Caracas in 2017 to attend a meeting at the headquarters of Citgo’s parent, Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA. Once there, masked officers bearing assault rifles stormed the conference room where they were gathered and arrested the men. Later, they were sentenced on corruption and embezzlement charges in connection to a never-executed plan to refinance billions in bonds, the Associated Press reported. The men have always maintained their innocence. In May 2022, one of the Citgo executives, Gustavo Cárdenas, was released. Five of his colleagues remain imprisoned in Venezuela: Jose Angel Pereira, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano. The State Department considers their imprisonment “wrongful” and continues to seek their unconditional return.
FILE - This undated file photo posted on Twitter on June 18, 2020 by Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, shows CITGO oil executives Jose Angel Pereira, from left to right, Gustavo Cardenas, Jorge Toledo, Jose Luis Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Alirio Jose Zambrano, standing outside the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, in Caracas, Venezuela. The oil executives have been granted a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 16, 202, before an appeals court, a rare decision by the judicial system in the South American country. (Posted on Twitter by Jorge Arreaza/Venezuela's Foreign Ministry via AP File)
  • Luke Denman: Texas native Luke Denman has been detained in Venezuela since May 2020. He was one of two ex-Green Berets arrested in a foiled plot to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, NBC News reported. According to Venezuelan officials, eight “mercenary terrorists” were killed and several captured, including Denman and fellow Army veteran Airan Berry, during the raid. In a taped video statement broadcast by Venezuela state television, Denman acknowledged traveling to a small town in Colombia near the Venezuelan border to train and supervise rebel soldiers that would seize and hold the Caracas airport, abduct Maduro and fly him to the US. In the video, Denman said, “I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country.” Denman and Berry were later found guilty of conspiracy, trafficking in illegal arms and terrorism, and sentenced to 20 years in prison, the Associated Press reported. Shortly after his brother’s capture, Mark Denman founded American Rescue Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to the return of U.S. citizens held abroad and seeking their humane treatment.
  • Brittney Griner: Phoenix Mercury’s All-Star center remains in Russia after being detained following her arrival at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17. Russian authorities said a search of the Houston native’s luggage revealed vape cartridges that allegedly contained oil derived from cannabis, which could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, the Associated Press reported. The Biden administration has determined that the WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist is being wrongfully detained in Russia, and is working to secure her release even as the legal case against her plays out.
FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner sits during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. Griner is easily the most prominent American citizen known to be jailed by a foreign government. Yet as a crucial hearing approaches next month, the case against her remains shrouded in mystery, with little clarity from the Russian prosecutors. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
  • Mark Swidan: Mark Swidan of Houston was 37 when he was detained, in 2012, in China while on a business trip. Chinese officers reportedly burst into his hotel room while he was talking to his family on the phone and, without a warrant or other decision by a public authority, took him to Jiangmen municipal detention center, Guangdong Province, where he remains, according to the United Nations. Swidan was accused of belonging to a group involved in the manufacture and trafficking of drugs. Though drugs were found on Swidan’s interpreter and driver, no drugs were ever found on Swidan or in his hotel room and no forensic evidence – no drugs in his system, no DNA on the packages, no fingerprints on the packages or drug paraphernalia – has ever been produced connecting him to the drugs or any trafficking, according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group that works to improve treatment for detainees in China. The Department of State and the White House have raised Swidan’s case with the Chinese government on numerous occasions.
  • Austin Tice: American journalist Austin Tice was abducted in Syria nearly 10 years ago. Tice, who is from Houston and whose work had been published by The Washington Post, McClatchy newspapers and other outlets, disappeared in August 2012 at a checkpoint in a contested area west of Damascus, the Associated Press reported. A video released weeks after his abduction showed a blindfolded Tice saying “Oh, Jesus.” He has not been heard from since. In 2020, two U.S. officials traveled to Damascus to seek information on Tice and other U.S. hostages believed to be held in Syria. The secret high-stakes meeting was the highest-level talk in years between the U.S. and the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Associated Press reported. During the talk, the Syrian officials offered no substantive information on Tice.
This undated photo obtained from the family of Austin Tice, shows American freelance journalist Austin Tice (AP Photo/Family of Austin Tice)

Formerly detained Texans

  • Danny Burch: In February 2019, East Texas oil engineer Danny Burch was freed after 18 months of captivity in Yemen. Burch, who is married to a Yemeni national, had lived in Yemen for years working for an oil company when he was kidnapped in September 2017, the Associated Press reported. At the time, his wife Nadia told The New York Times that her husband had left their home in in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa to take their sons to a sports club but never returned. Police later told her that witnesses reported that he had been stopped on a busy street by five armed men in civilian clothes. The men parked Burch’s car on a side street and took him away.
  • Gustavo Cárdenas: In March 2022, the U.S. secured the release of American oil executive Gustavo Cárdenas. Cárdenas, who was vice president of shareholder relations at Citgo, was one of six executives from the Houston oil company detained in November 2017 during a business trip and charged with corruption, NBC News reported. Cárdenas’s colleagues, known collectively as the “Citgo 6,″ were left behind. Cárdenas resides in Katy with his wife María and their children. In a statement to the Associated Press, Cárdenas said he prays for the release of his colleagues.
In this handout photo provided by Maria Elena Cardenas, Gustavo Cardenas, one of six oil executives jailed in Venezuela, poses for a photo with his son Sergio, in their home in Houston, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Cardenas expressed happiness to be home after an imprisonment of more than four years that he said has caused a lot of suffering and pain, much more than I can explain with my words. But he said he is praying for five colleagues of his company who were not released Tuesday night. Together, the men are known as the Citgo 6. (Maria Elena Cardenas via AP)
  • Serkan Golge: In 2019, Turkish-American scientist Serkan Golge was released from a prison in Turkey after spending nearly three years behind bars on terrorism charges. A senior researcher at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Golge was on a family visit in southern Turkey when he was arrested in the aftermath of a failed coup seeking to overthrow Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, the Associated Press reported. Golge was one of thousands of people, including at least nine American citizens, detained by the Turkish government on suspicion of participating in the failed coup attempt, according to the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
  • Trevor Reed: Russia released Trevor Reed, a former Marine from Texas, in a prisoner exchange with the U.S. in April 2022. In 2019, Reed traveled to Russia with his Russian girlfriend to learn the language. He was arrested after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven to a police station following a night of heavy drinking, the Associated Press reported. Reed was later sentenced to nine years in prison. The U.S. government described Reed as unjustly detained and Reed and his family have maintained his innocence.
U.S. ex-Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in 2019 and accused of assaulting police officers, at a court hearing in Moscow, Russia on March 11, 2020.

About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.